The 4 Newcastle United fixtures that will determine our fate
There are still 11 Newcastle United fixtures remaining this season.
Whilst unbeaten in the last two matches, the draws against Wolves and West Brom have given little cause for optimism for fans.
Many fans have already written Newcastle off and can you blame them?
Currently sitting in 16th place, just one point above the drop zone, with a game in hand; a difficult fixture away to Liverpool.
However, I believe that whether we are relegated or not won’t be defined by Newcastle United fixtures against those in the top half of the league. Instead, we need to beat those around us.
In these last 11 games, NUFC have four games against those in and around the trap door; away to Brighton, away to Burnley, home to Sheffield United, then away to Fulham on the final day of the season.
If we can get positive results in these fixtures, I believe they would be just enough alone to guarantee our safety.
However, given what we all had to suffer through on Sunday, away to West Brom, this will be a big ask.
With Wilson, Almiron and Saint-Maximin injured until further notice, Newcastle struggled to carve any real chances at the Hawthorns. The attacking trio of Joelinton, Willock and Fraser were toothless in their forward play and didn’t cause many problems for the West Brom defence, apart from a couple of breakaways in the first 10 minutes.
The sooner Wilson, Almiron and Saint-Maximin return to fitness, the better.
The Brighton game on Saturday 20 March will come too soon for the trio, as they aren’t due to return until April at the earliest.
Bruce will be hoping that they are fit enough to return to the squad for the Spurs game on the weekend of Saturday 3 April, and failing that, for the journey to Turf Moor the following week.
Newcastle’s recent form suggests that by that point, there could be a far pressing need for their assistance in the relegation struggle.
Then we have the intriguing pair of Newcastle United fixtures at the very end, Sheffield United and Fulham in the final two games of the season.
Sheffield United will most likely already be relegated by this point, this lack of pressure though sometimes has a positive effect on the team.
Just think back to our 5-1 win over Spurs in 2016. Our relegation had already been confirmed prior to the final game of the season and we blew them away, despite going down to ten men.
Whilst Sheffield United may not have this pressure, the return of Wilson, Saint-Maximin, and Almiron gives me confidence that we will have more than enough to get the three points in the penultimate game of the season.
Where this will leave us going into the final fixture remains to be seen.
Our fate may have already been decided beforehand but many fans believe that it is our destiny to take it to the wire, with the visit to Craven Cottage to be our relegation decider.
On paper, with key players available, Newcastle should have enough to get a positive result here, but Fulham are a team with momentum who are proving very difficult to beat (only four defeats in their last sixteen PL matches). This was further backed by their 1-0 away win at Anfield over the weekend.
The thought of Mitrovic or ex-Mackem Maja sending us down for a team managed by ex-Mag Scott Parker is a very disturbing one indeed.
When Wilson, Saint-Maximin and Almiron return, Newcastle have an attacking trio who can cause most Premier League defences problems. Who knows, perhaps we, like Fulham, can earn one or two victories that no one saw coming against the better teams?
What is apparent at the moment is that out of all of the teams in the relegation battle, Newcastle look the least likely to find a winning formula; just two wins in the last 18 games (all competitions) doesn’t fill you with much optimism.
Whilst you can look at other teams’ run-ins and hope theirs prove more difficult than ours, the folly of relying on that in any way was proved this weekend gone. Steve Bruce celebrating a point at West Brom, only for Fulham’s win at Liverpool to make it little cause for any celebration.
Newcastle’s fate is still in our hands and the Magpies have to ‘accumulate’ enough points under their own steam, rather than anxiously watching and hoping for dropped points elsewhere.
As things stand, matching or beating the points tallies of Brighton and Fulham across the remainder of the season, will mean NUFC still playing Premier League football next term.
Those four remaining Newcastle United fixtures against other sides in the bottom six look to hold the key to survival, the biggest question of all is whether Steve Bruce can manage to fit that key in the lock.
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